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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Getting the Best Responses from Blogger Help Forum

Blogger Help Forum is a place where you can shoot your various Blogger-related questions, and kind helpers will help you out to resolve issues that you are facing. However, many questions are still left unanswered - and one can hardly blame the helpers for this. As an asker, it is your responsibility to make sure your questions get attended. If your question is not answered, you have yourself to blame. Either that or no-one knows the answer to your question. In this post, I will list out as many tips that I can think of to help you get the best possible responses from the helpers at Blogger Help Forum.

Tip #1:
Always State Your Blog's URL

URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator. In layman's term, your blog's address. It might seem irrelevant for you to state your blog's address, and you might feel that your question is generic enough that one can answer you even without knowing your blog's address. But you might be dead wrong. You'll never know what kind of information the helpers require from your blog to suggest you a working solution. You might not know how things work, so you might not include this vital piece of information in your problem description. By leaving your blog's address, the helper will be able to figure this out and answer your question accordingly. Personally, out of 10 questions that I answer, I'd have to see 7 of them in order to suggest a working solution. That's 70% mind you.

Here’s my definition of a properly constructed ‘Blog’s URL’ field:
  • Complete and correct.
  • State if it’s a private blog.
  • Good Example:
  • Bad Example 1: (Left blank, unforgivable)
  • Bad Example 2: (An ‘at symbol’)
  • Bad Example 3: southernspeakers@blogspot (Again, an ‘at symbol’ with no .com)
  • Bad Example 4: southernspeakers (Incomplete. Could be, .net, .com, .info, anything!)
  • Bad Example 5: southernspeakers.blogspot (I’ll forgive this one, but still...)

Tip #2:
Always State the Browser Used and its Version

Browser is the application/software that you use to surf the Internet. Popular web browsers include Firefox, Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Safari, Opera, Netscape and so on. Blogs tend to appear differently on different browsers, as the renderers used in each browser differ from one another. If you face problem in a particular browser, state which browser it is.

It is equally important to state your browser's version. You're in luck if helpers ask you back to reveal certain piece of information. Most of the times, helpers will ignore poorly constructed questions.

My definition of properly constructed ‘Browser(s) Used’ field:
  • State the browser(s) in which the problem is encountered.
  • Include Version.
  • Good Example: Internet Explorer 8, Internet Explorer 9 Beta, Firefox 3, Firefox 4 Beta, Firefox 3.6.15
  • Bad Example 1: (Left blank, unforgivable)
  • Bad Example 2: IE (No Version)
  • Bad Example 3: Voices from South (???? Gibberish)

    Tip #3:
    Properly Constructed Questions

    It annoys me to see a question with only a title included, and all the other fields left blank. If you're that busy to describe your problem, then don't bother starting a question thread. Helpers take their own time to answer your questions. Show some initiative that you appreciate the help that you'll be getting by constructing your question properly to make it as easy as possible for the helpers to help you out.

    Example of a properly constructed question:
    • Includes title
    • Includes blog's URL
    • Includes browser and version
    • Includes description

      Helpers tend to answer questions that are constructed properly, and ignore the poor ones.

      Tip #4:
      Properly Constructed Title

      • Short and concise.
      • Gives the simplest idea of what the question is about.
      • Good Example: “Problem Uploading Images”
      • Bad Example: “HELP!!!! Somebody please Help Me! Yesterday, I tried to upload an image for my new post. Each time I tried to upload it, I get war...”

        Tip #5:
        Describing Your Problem

        • Elaborated and simple.
        • Include all information that you think will be needed.
        • Include template name if you’re using a third party template or if your blog is private.
        • Screenshot of your problem will be a bonus.
        • Don’t write an article/report/novel to describe your problem. If your description is darn long, no-one will read it. Make sure every sentence that you include is informative.
        • If you use a term that you make up on your own throughout your description, take some time to describe what it means first. Example: Post-page -----> The page that opens when you click on a post’s title.
        • Include a bottom-line of what you’re trying to achieve at the end of your description. Example: Basically, I want my sidebar to be a little wider than what it is right now.

        Tip #6:
        Start Your own Question

        You should not be posting questions in a thread that has been started by another user. The reasonable things that should be posted in another asker's thread are suggestions to the original question, suggestions to make the previous answers better, acknowledgement of the issue in the original question, and messages to thank helpers that have solved the original question. If you have a similar problem, but the answer posted in the other thread does not work for you, by all means start a new thread.

        Tip #7:
        Start a New Thread for a New Question

        It is an extremely bad idea to post more than one question in a single thread. Let me tell you why. Say you've asked 2 questions in a single thread. And one helper answers the first question, and a second helper answers the other question. So which answer will you select to be the best answer?

        Besides, some helpers might know the answer to one of your questions, but not the other. Since the helper will not be able to answer your question 'completely', he/she would choose not to answer at all. This is a very popular reason for questions to remain unanswered.

        Another scenario, same topic. Say the title of your question is "How to achieve subject A". And a kind helper answers you. Now instead of choosing a best answer and concluding the thread, you selfishly ask for another question on the same thread. This time, the question is more unique and has never been asked before. Say the question is about "Achieving subject Z". And say the helper answers this question too. But that would be a big waste of resource. That is because if someone else looks for the answer to "achieving subject Z", that person would never look for the answer under this thread, as the title is about "achieving subject A", even though the correct answer is IN there.

        I can think of another one. Helpers choose to answer questions based on what they know best. Most helpers will not answer a question if the they do not know the answer to the question. By posting a new question in your existing thread, you're kinda forcing the helper to answer something that he/she might not know. Not to mention, other helpers might know better about the new question that you ask, but you'll be getting a forced-answer from the current attending helper (+ a really bad reputation), simply because you refuse to start a new thread for your question.

        Helpers see these as selfish acts. You should avoid it to get good responses (or any response at all). So give each one of your questions a separate thread. You don't have to pay for it. If your new question is unattended, you can drop a message to one of your previous question threads requesting the helper to have a look at your latest thread.

        Tip #8:
        Don't be the First Replier in Your Own Thread

        If you've missed out certain things from your problem description, use the update feature to update your question. Avoid being the first person to reply to your own question. This is because when you have replied in your own question, technically your question thread will not be listed under 'unanswered'. Some helpers choose questions that are unanswered to make sure everyone gets a reply. If you're the first person to reply in your own thread, your question might not be seen by some helpers.

        Until a helper attend to you, make changes to your question by using the 'Update' feature instead of replying to your own thread. You may bump your thread if your question remains unanswered after 1-2 days.

        Tip #9:
        Private Blog Owners

        If you're having a private blog, mention this in 'Blog's URL' field. But that doesn't mean you stand equal chance of getting your questions answered. If you ask about a common or known issue, you'd get a good answer directly. But if you're facing a specific template problem, it is recommended for you to state the Template that you're using. Also, it'd be a bonus if you include a link to a screen capture of the problem.

        If you think your problem is too complicated for you to handle alone, then request a reliable helper to take a look at your blog. You'd have to invite the helper of course, that is, if the helper agrees.

        Tip #10:
        Third Party Templates

        If you did not get your template from Blogger itself, you’re using a third party template. When this is the case, always state your template’s name and where you download it from. Some helpers will not answer questions involving third party templates, simply because the structures used in these templates differ from the Blogger's 'built-in' templates. When a issue regarding Blogger’s ‘built-in’ template is posted, helpers can easily replicate the problem and suggest a working solution. Thus, to answer a third-party-template related question, helpers will have to use your third party template to replicate the issue in order to suggest a working solution. Usually, helpers will simply choose to ignore you if they have to go through the trouble of finding the template that you are using. So encourage them to answer your question by making it easy for them to replicate your issue.

        Tip #11:
        Foreign Language

        Most helpers communicate in English. If you post your questions in a foreign language, chances of you getting an answer is very limited. So, make use of Google Translate to translate your question into English before posting them. When you get a reply, convert the reply back to your language. I'm not saying this is a must. I'm just saying you'll stand a better chance of getting your questions answered when you post them in English. It’s better for you to do all these extra works instead of burdening the helpers.

        Tip #12:
        Don't use the 'Not Helpful' Button to Express Frustration

        Don’t mark a helper’s answer as ‘Not Helpful’ just because you're frustrated. That's rude, ungrateful and downright childish. Usually, reliable helpers test what they suggest to you first, by replicating the issues that you face. Chances of the solutions being wrong are minimal. So if a solution that they provide doesn’t work, consult them first, describe how you tried to put it into effect. You should not label an answer as ‘Not Helpful’ just because you’re not convinced with the helpers' answers.

        Sometimes, the helpers might overlook your question, and suggest something tangential to what you’re asking. In cases like this, you don’t have to be sarcastic or mean to the helpers. They are human and they tend to err. Appreciate the time that the helpers take to reply back to you. Tell them nicely that you’re trying to achieve something else.

        Tip #13:
        After Getting Your Questions Answered

        Please choose a best answer and conclude the thread. Based on my observations, out of 10 questions asked, only 3 get concluded. If your problem is solved, choose an answer and conclude the thread, it’s that simple. If you have more questions to ask, start a new thread for your new questions. Don't shoot all your questions in the same thread.

        Also, it won’t hurt you to thank the helpers once your question has been answered. I’ve seen few ungrateful askers who simply abandoned the thread after getting the questions answered. Technical question that is. I took so much time to come up with solutions that the askers wantes (with HTML and CSS coding mind you), and I got ignored after suggesting the solution to the askers. The best part? The askers actually did implement my solutions in their blogs, just that they were too busy to reply back to me. But they were free enough to start new threads to ask other questions. Guess who got ignored this time? I know, it’s not a must for you to do these things. But the number of helpers are so limited, and you’re running the risk of not getting a proper reply when you ask another question in the future based on your past reputation. When you don’t conclude your thread (by choosing a best answer) and if you show a poor attitude trait towards the helpers, you’re hurting your own reputation.

        The helpers don’t get paid for helping you. The least you can do is choose a best answer and thank all the helpers that have tried to help you out.

        Tip #14:
        Always Use Blogger Help Forum

        This one is an add-on from The new Katney, a Top Contributor in Blogger Help Forum. Personally I don't mind at all seeing Blogger issues in my comments. Afterall, almost 80% of the contents in this blog is about Blogger related stuffs. I don't think I'd be able to say the same if I see Blogger issues in my other blogs (not that I have one).

        The new Katney says:

        Some questioners track helpers down through their profiles, and e-mail questions to them. Some also will find a helper's blog and put a question in the comments. That MIGHT or might not be appropriate on a blog like yours which is dedicated to blogger tips, but is really annoying on my photoblog. I delete these comments and do not respond to the questions whether I know the answer or not. 

        Tip #15:
        Never Threaten to Switch to Other Blogging Sites

        Because we don't give a rat's ass even if you do. We don't work for Google. We don't get paid for what we're doing. For most of us, helping in Blogger Help Forum is an addictive hobby. Telling us that you'd switch to other site if you don't get help is like *thinking of an analogy*.. Okay, my analogies are to harsh to be written here. But you get the idea.

        There are right ways to get proper responses for your questions. By threatening us, you're just hurting your own reputation, by showing us how shallow you are. Encourage us to help you. But, seriously, do you think you'll be able to make less of Google by switching to another site?

        (This is written in general. If you're offended, my appologies. I'm just trying to help you get the best responses out there)

        Tip #16:
        Don't Point your Question to a Single Helper

        This happens a lot. It's not bad, but you're hurting your chance of getting the reply that you want. It is understandable that you want to get the best help possible from the best helpers around. But by pointing out a helper's name in your question/title, it's like you're indirectly telling all the other helpers to stay away. And you'd be lucky if your favourite helper even sees your thread. What if he/she doesn't? Your thread will be unanswered forever.

        If you want to get a specific helper's attention, then go to one of his/her thread and leave a link to your thread there.


        1. Thank you for your help, it worked great.

          I have another question now: How to make the same content that I just shifted left...use slight opacity for the backing, but not the text in css?

          Any and all help is much appreciated.



        2. A good list, Yo. I have another tip to add. Some questioners track helpers down through their profiles, and e-mail questions to them. Some also will find a helper's blog and put a question in the comments. That MIGHT or might not be appropriate on a blog like yours which is dedicated to blogger tips, but is really annoying on my photoblog. I delete these comments and do not respond to the questions whether I know the answer or not.

        3. katney: Good point, I've added it to the tiplist above.

        4. great post. what if i want to share this particular post of yours with my frens on foodbuzz? should i do another post with this link of yours and buzz it?

        5. kitchenmorph: I wish I knew more about the foodbuzz community, but I dont. But if I had to guess, I'd say the same thing as you did (write a post).

        6. yeah i think that makes sense. good night.

        7. how can i change my blog name?

        8. @Muaz: To change the title or description of your blog, go to Dashboard - Settings - Basic. To change the address of your blog, go to Dashboard - Settings - Publishing.



        Please use the 'Ask a Question' page to shoot questions that are not related to the tutorial in the post above.